Ministry vows to act over 'illegal' passport retention

Companies that keep passports of workers will not be tolerated - Ministry of Labour.
Ministry vows to act over 'illegal' passport retention
ILLEGAL MOVE: The Ministry of Labour has vowed to clamp down on companies retaining passports of workers.
By Tom Arnold
Thu 30 Apr 2009 10:58 AM

The practice of companies retaining employees’ passports will not be tolerated, a senior UAE Ministry of Labour official has said.

The retention of workers’ passports by employers was illegal, Yousuf Abdulghani, executive director, policies and strategy at the ministry, said.

Some firms, especially in the construction industry, continue to withhold foreign workers’ passports despite instructions issued by the Ministry of Interior warning employers not to hold passports for any reason.

“It’s illegal,” Abdulghani told Arabian Business on the sidelines of the GCC Leadership Summit on labour management in Dubai on Wednesday.

“The government will not tolerate companies that withhold passports,” he said.

He said it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior to ensure the practice did not happen.

Certain insurance companies required employers to withhold passports under insurance schemes to protect firms against workers who abscond, according to Alex Zalami, senior advisor for the Ministry of Labour.

He said other measures needed to be introduced to protect employers against the risk of workers leaving the country.

Venu Rajamony, Consul General of India in Dubai, said: “To use it (a passport) as an instrument against a worker is wrong.

“They (companies) should not do it, it’s against the law.

The UAE is signed up to the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour, under which the retention of workers’ passports is a violation of the agreement.

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